“Just as a sick man does not ask the doctor for things which will restore him to health but rather for things which his disease longs for, so likewise we, as long as we are languishing in the weakness of this life, will from time to time ask God for things which are not good for us. This is why the Spirit has to help us.” – Origen
This Sunday, we looked at Romans 8:26-30 and learned that everything which happens to us is part of God’s master plan for molding us into the image of Christ. The journey from the gutter to glory often requires the painful setting of bones or the ache of new muscles, but new life is inevitably bursting from our rot.
Hope and responsibility kiss in this text. Hope – because the text is clear that all of those who are justified will be glorified. God does not lose anyone. Responsibility, because no part of the promise says it is now. Like many things in the Bible, this promise is unconditional, but the timing is not.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” If you are a Christian, you are forgiven of your sins, and will one day stand before God and see Him as He is. Yet, if you are entangled in sin today, the filth on your heart will cloud your eyes (to mix three metaphors). Likewise, all things work together for God for those who love God, for the called according to His purpose. Ultimately, all those who are really His children will love God. Yet, if you do not love God now, the experiences He sends to shape you will only embitter you.
Practically, what does that look like for you today? Paul introduces the solution in the first two verses of our text: Romans 8:26-27. Prayer! The battle for our lives is won or lost in our hears; the battle for our heart is won or lost on our knees. In prayer, we learn to love God. In loving God, we learn how to live. So why are our prayer lives so weak? Why are we so good at being busy and so bad at being still and knowing that He is God? Why can my mind stay focused on a TV show, a book or a conversation with my wife (no comments from the peanut gallery), but not on intertwining my heart with my Maker? Really, it should not come as any surprise that the enemy comes at us where we have the potential for our greatest victory. Let’s take three baby steps from our passage to strengthen our prayer life, develop a love for God and let all things make us like Jesus.
Recognize our Weakness
There is a remarkable humility in recognizing that my heart is broken, in the deepest sense. The things I am prone to love are not the things I need. I desire wrongly, think wrongly and therefore pray wrongly. I am not a self-made man, and I cannot get myself out of the messes I am in. I am fragile, I am dependent and, when I refuse to accept help, I am stupid and proud. Can you fall on your knees, literally and figuratively, in complete dependence on God? Pride is the enemy of love, whether for God or other people.
Pray Despite our Weakness
On your knees now, you must pray imperfectly. God knows that your prayers are dull, self-serving instruments, and now you do too. The response to that is not to give up on praying, but to pour out your heart as it is. When it is in God’s hands, His Spirit comes alongside your Spirit, and groans deeper than your words. Pray until you sense that groaning beneath your words, and the birth pangs of the new person God is bringing out within you find their satisfaction in Him.
Trust God with our weakness
Now, child of God, as you pray you simply trust God. He knows your heart, and He knows the Spirit’s prayer. That prayer is for his will for you, which you must trust is what will make you into glory. It may hurt you in the present, but you have to trust Him. If He gave His Son for you, He has proven His love. How can you doubt that He has your best interests at heart? As you trust Him, in light of His love, you will love Him in return.
As you realize your need of Him, you will love Him like a child loves his mother. When you love Him, your heart receives the things He sends differently. When you become malleable, you become like Him. All things work together for that good.
 Gerald Bray, ed., Romans (Revised), Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 221.